French cider, on-trend and offering multiple variants

30-11-2016
Logo France Bon appétit

French cider consumption has been growing in France and abroad for the last two years, with an array of new product innovations.

Think cider, think apples or pears. The French cider industry is made up of more than 1,500 fruit growers, of which 1,500 are professional producers focusing entirely on growing fruit destined for the production of cider, and who supply the lion’s share of production (200,000 tonnes of fruit).

Cider production is mainly concentrated in Brittany and Normandy, and to a lesser extent in the regions of Loire, Picardy and Nord-Pas de Calais. With 8,500 hectares and producing 250,000 tonnes of fruit, France is Europe’s largest orchard dedicated to cider.  Around 10% of cider production (1.1m hl) is exported every year (90,000 hl in 2009 ). The EU is by far the largest customer of French cider producers, with Germany and Belgium among its top clients (Source: FranceAgriMer).

Market trends: Perry and flavoured ciders

Cider is currently gaining market share and its reputation is riding high. Perry or pear cider is seeing the greatest growth, and sales skyrocketed by 56% in 2013, albeit from a low base of only 2% total volume. Similarly, pink cider launched back in 2011 saw a rise of more than 50% and accounts for 5% of sales. Today, these ciders generate more than 50% of the growth from bottled cider. Changes in the way cider is consumed are also worth noting.  While invariably sold in Champagne-style 75cl bottles, smaller bottle formats of 25 or 33cl are increasingly common.

The growth of la Chouette, a new generation cider

Major French cider brands such as Loic Raison and Ecusson (Agrial) have played a pivotal role in regenerating the image of French cider, launching canned cider at the beginning of 2010, followed by pink cider, raspberry cider and more recently, vodka cider. Since then, other companies have joined the bandwagon to produce a fresh take on cider, which is certainly the case with La Chouette.

Pierre-Henri Agnes and Alexandre Riteau are two former students from Edhec Business School in Lille. After graduating they decided to set up their own company specialising in the production, sales and even exports of Normandy cider, Pierre-Henri’s native region.  And La Chouette – meaning “the owl”, an admittedly quirky name among ciders – was born.

“My grandfather produced cider and there were quite a few owls in his barn.  I wanted to play on this fact through the name. It’s also very French, which we find particularly effective in foreign markets,” explains Pierre-Henri Agnes, one of the co-founders of the cider brand, which is today based in Saint-Pair-Sur-Mer in Normandy.”

Right from the start they made the decision to promote their product abroad, initally in Hong Kong. “We organised several blind tastings over there targeting an international customer-base, and we realised that French cider had every chance of success. We modified the taste specifically to suit the target audience and today Hong Kong is our biggest market, points out Pierre-Henri Agnes, whose counterpart is based in Hong Kong to manage the Asian side of the business.

La Chouette is quite unusual and definitely stands apart from the rest of the market. Relatively fruity like a sweet cider, yet quite different in its alcohol content at 4.5% vol, it is slightly less fizzy than your average French cider.  Other success drivers include a robust communications strategy focusing on “Made in France” and “Made in Normandy”, and a highly targeted marketing approach tailored to each client. Exports currently account for 95% of sales with customers located in almost four corners of the globe, notably in Hong Kong, Singapore and Switzerland.

Enjoy cider even in a cocktail!

According to Pierre-Henri Agnes, there are two ways to enjoy La Chouette; “either as a refreshing pre-dinner drink or to enjoy with dessert such as pastries or cakes”. This said, Alexandre Riteau was keen to add a further dimension to the cider drinking experience: the cocktail. In fact Riteau, a keen mixologist, decided to formulate a cocktail menu entirely based on cider. Make way for the famous Kir Breton, but also the French Corsair, which is a blend of Chouette, Grand Marnier, dark rum and Amaretto.

 Kir breton

kir-normand

Source : La Chouette

Ingredients

  • 10cl La Chouette
  • 1.5cl Calvados
  • 1.5cl Crème de cassis*

How to make

Pour the crème de cassis* into a Champagne flute.

Add the calvados.

Top up with chilled cider and mix with care.

* The crème de cassis (blackcurrant) can be substituted with crème de mûre (blackberry), crème de myrtille (blueberry) or crème de framboise (raspberry).

 

 

French Corsair

french-corsair

Source : La Chouette

Ingredients 

  • 7cl La Chouette
  • 2cl Grand Marnier
  • 2cl Dark Rum
  • 1cl Amaretto

How to make

Mix all the ingredients together with the ice, except the cider.

Pour the mixture into an Old Fashioned tumbler.

Top up with cider and stir lightly.

It is an effective in-road to the hotel and cocktail bar segment and other festive on-trade venues, and a viable route to reach new customers. La Chouette has a promising future ahead and French cider too, and France has every intention of making the most of it. Cider was recognised as part of France’s gastronomic heritage by France’s principal legislative body, the Assemblée Nationale, on 25th June 2014.

Did you know?

It takes a kilogram of apples to make a litre of cider. Cider is made from “cider apples”, which differ from normal eating apples. There are many varieties, classified into groups according to flavour, and when blended are characteristic of specific regions or “terroirs”.   Cider is also used as a base for two additional alcoholic drinks: cider eau de vie or cider brandy, such as Calvados (AOC), and mistelles such as Pommeau (AOC), which are made by blending fresh fruit juice with its corresponding brandy, in this case fresh apple juice and cider brandy.

In search of la Chouette?

For more information on distribution of La Chouette cider, visit the official website for local listings.